New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) carries on a pass reception ahead of Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) and defensive end Vic Beasley (44) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes under pressure from Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston passes during warmups before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Scott Eklund)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Drew Brees looks at Tampa Bay and sees an opportunity for the New Orleans Saints to reassert themselves, though not necessarily because the Buccaneers have a young, inexperienced secondary.
The Bucs may rank last in the NFL in pass defense, but the veteran quarterback of the NFC South leaders - coming off a lopsided loss to the Atlanta Falcons - says he pays a lot more attention to game film than numbers while preparing for an opponent.
''I'm saying just in general, I don't look at statistics and then judge a defense or anyone based just on the statistics,'' Brees said. ''I'm going to turn on the tape, I'm going to trust what I see, and then I'm going to go out to execute according to that.''
The Bucs (3-6) lead the NFL in run defense, yielding just 77.8 yards per game on the ground. Conversely, they're allowing an average of 299 through the air while giving up a league-high 31 points per game.
And that's before coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht decided to part ways with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was waived this week after being benched for a portion of last Sunday's 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
With a couple of other young, inexperienced players dealing with injuries, Tampa Bay probably will be forced to start three rookies (safety Mike Edwards, cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean) and a second-year player (safety Jordan Whitehead) in the defensive backfield against the Saints on Sunday.
Brees isn't assuming New Orleans (7-2) will have a clear-cut advantage.
''They're young, but they're talented,'' the 40-year-old quarterback said. ''Look at the investment that they've made in their secondary over the last three years with draft picks.''
Hargreaves was a first-round pick, No. 11 overall in 2016. In addition to selecting him, the Bucs used four second-round selections, two third-round picks and a pair of fourth-rounders on defensive backs over the past four years.
''Defensively, we're still a work in progress. ... All those young kids in the secondary are getting better and better,'' said Arians, whose team ended a four-game losing streak against Arizona.
Now, it's the division-leading Saints looking to rebound after being held without a touchdown in last week's 26-9 loss to last-place Atlanta.
New Orleans beat Tampa Bay 31-24 at home without an injured Brees (thumb) on Oct. 6. After facing the Bucs again, the Saints will complete a stretch of four consecutive games against NFC South foes by hosting Carolina and traveling to Atlanta.
Brees expects the Saints to play better Sunday.
''We were extremely disappointed in our performance (last week). I think we know we're a lot better than that and understand that, especially at this point in the season, this is a time when we really want to start separating ourselves from the pack,'' he said.
While the Saints held Bucs receiver Mike Evans without a catch in their last meeting, the defender who primarily covered Evans might not be able to play on Sunday. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore left last weekend's game with a pulled hamstring. The Saints moved P.J. Williams to cornerback and rookie C.J. Gardner Johnson into Williams' usual nickel back slot. The results were encouraging. Although the Saints lost, the Falcons finished with fewer than 200 net yards passing. Still, Saints coach Sean Payton is weary of Jameis Winston's ability to get the ball downfield to both Evans and Chris Godwin.
''Their passing numbers right now are outstanding when you look at (the Bucs' success rate on) third down, at what they're scoring,'' Payton said. ''So, changing up the looks, trying to affect him is important and then understanding, hey, how are the interceptions coming, how are the fumbles coming? All of those things you study.''
Hargreaves was due to earn $9 million next season, although it was guaranteed for injury only. While the impending salary was a factor in the decision to release the fourth-year pro, the move also reiterated one of Arians' points of emphasis in his first season with the Bucs.
''You control your attitude and your effort,'' the coach said. ''You don't control a lot of things, but you control those two - and they better be good.''
Starting left guard Andrus Peat, a 2018 Pro Bowl selection and 2015 first-round pick, broke his arm during New Orleans' loss to Atlanta and had surgery this week. His recovery could keep him out until the final week of the regular season. Will Clapp, a second-year pro out of LSU, was first off the bench to replace Peat during the game. Clapp struggled, but so did much of the offensive line that day, when Brees was sacked six times. In addition to Clapp, the Saints have a couple of veterans who could sub in as needed: Nick Easton and Patrick Omameh. Easton was signed as a free agent when center Max Unger retired, but the Saints then acquired Texas A&M center Erik McCoy in the second round of last spring's draft and he won the job. Easton has played in just three games this season and was a healthy scratch last weekend, but that could change.
''Every season, you're going to have guys that go down for a period of time - you hope not too long, and you have to have guys step up and fill in,'' Brees said. ''I'm confident with the guys we have to do that.''
Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas caught five of his 10 targets for 57 yards and a touchdown during the loss to the Falcons on Sunday. Thomas filled in for Greg Olsen (concussion) and made the most of it by finding the end zone for the first time this season. With Olsen's status up in the air from now until the end of the year, he will be a priority waiver target this upcoming week as leagues progress through the fantasy playoffs.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison caught his lone target for 11 yards in a 20-15 win over the Washington Redskins. Another game, another poor performance for Allison, who's been a fantasy bust this year. The 25-year-old has now failed to eclipse 50 receiving yards in all but one game. He is firmly off the fantasy radar.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey ran for 53 yards on 11 carries to go along with 82 yards on 11 catches during the loss to the Falcons on Sunday. For only the fourth time this season, McCaffrey failed to find the end zone, and while the team has virtually nothing to play for, the 23-year-old should stay active as he attempts to make a case to be named the league's MVP. Consider him a must-start, obviously, throughout the remainder of the season.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard caught two of three targets for 19 receiving yards in a 20-15 victory over the Washington Redskins. Lazard fell back down to earth after exploding for a career-high 103 yards against the Giants last week. The rookie fell victim to a bad performance by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, though the Redskins deserve credit for limiting his big-play potential. Lazard can't be trusted unless the matchup is especially juicy, as he's failed to exceed 50 receiving yards in six of eight games this year. Up next is a Week 15 matchup with the Chicago Bears' strong defense.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne snatched three of four targets for 18 yards and two touchdowns in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. Bourne once again operated as the Niners third receiver and red zone weapon, converting a pair of six-yard touchdown grabs. With five scores in his last six contests, the reliable Bourne has the trust of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo but his light volume translates into risky fantasy value. Hell be a touchdown-dependent WR5 in Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert handled 10 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. He also caught two balls for 40 yards and a second score. For the second consecutive week, Mostert dominated backfield snaps and was a beast after first contact. His touchdown catch came in the second quarter on a 35-yard trick play from wideout Emmanuel Sanders. Mostert later exploded through a hole for a 10-yard running score to close out the half. Playing the best football of his five-year career, Mostert has assumed firm control over the Niners rushing committee, outplaying both Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida. He deserves RB2 consideration in Week 15s favorable matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders recorded 157 yards and a touchdown on seven catches in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. He also threw a 35-yard touchdown pass. After battling a rib injury the past few weeks, Sanders looked fully healthy in Sundays shootout, leading the team in catches, targets and yards. His touchdown came on a 75-yard bomb in the second quarter when he smartly got up from the turf and raced to the house. His passing score came later in the quarter on a nifty trick play to running back Raheem Mostert. With the Niners clicking offensively, Sanders fantasy value appears supported despite the emergence of wideout Deebo Samuel and Mostert. Hell carry WR3 value in Week 15 against a weak Atlanta Falcons secondary.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen threw for 293 yards and a touchdown on 28-for-41 passing during the loss to the Falcons. He also had two interceptions and fumbled twice. After not throwing a pick in his first four games after taking over Cam Newton (foot), the 23-year-old now has 12 throughout his last seven games. Don't expect much from Allen moving ahead as the team enters survival mode to finish out the year.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught four of six targets for 41 yards in a 20-15 win over the Washington Redskins. It didn't help that quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for only 195 yards and one touchdown. Rodgers' poor performance and game script are likely why Adams saw a season-low six targets after compiling double-digit opportunities from Rodgers in four straight contests. Adams will look to be more involved in Week 15 against the stingy Chicago Bears.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman toted just three carries for six yards in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. In a 48-46 thriller, Colemans second consecutive bust confirms that hes been sidelined for Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida. He was seen early in the game but not much afterwards. After accruing just 128 rush yards in his last six games, Coleman is impossible to start heading into Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald (concussion) left Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals for further testing and is listed as questionable to return. The 29-year-old caught his only target for three yards in the game, which is a disappointing performance against the defense who has allowed 13 touchdowns to tight ends. It will be interesting to see if he passes protocol before next Sunday's game against the Bills, where he would likely be a non-fantasy factor.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate was forced to exit Sunday's loss to the Browns with an apparent knee injury. After recording his first and only catch of the game, the 22-year-old limped his way back to the locker room after initially being evaluated in the medical tent. Tate has been a semi-regular target for the team this year, logging 39 catches for 559 yards and a touchdown on 76 targets. While he wasn't a consistent source of production, he does have value in deeper leagues. Look for an update regarding his status for the Week 15 encounter with the Patriots, but if he is out, look for the recently-returned John Ross to serve as the primary beneficiary.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead was having a below-average performance in Week 14's matchup with the Buffalo Bills before reeling in a four-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Snead caught 3-of-4 targets for a measly 13 yards but was quarterback Lamar Jackson's most impactful receiver in the game. If tight end Mark Andrews, who exited the game in the first quarter with a knee injury, is unable to go Thursday Night, Snead could see more involvement in the offense. Baltimore matches up against a Jets Defense in Week 15 that has been relatively vulnerable against opposing wide receivers in 2019.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert caught all four of his targets for 49 yards during the loss to Cleveland on Sunday. After failing to surpass 21 receiving yards in each of his last four outings, this was one of the most efficient performances from the veteran on the year. Nonetheless, this season has still been a major disappointment for 29-year-old, with not much expected to change moving forward, especially in Week 15 against a rough Patriots Defense.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram rushed for 50 yards on 15 carries in Week 14's win over the Buffalo Bills. Ingram added 29 yards on three receptions as a pass-catcher. The veteran struggled to break free, averaging 3.3 yards per carry with his longest gain being just nine yards. With Lamar Jackson clogging up the run game for Baltimore, it will be hard to view Ingram as anything more than a low-end RB2 against the New York Jets in Week 15. Ingram will look to bounce back next week against a Jets Defense that's allowing just 63 yards per game to opposing running backs in 2019.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams picked up 24 rushing yards on seven carries and failed to register a reception on one target. Williams played second fiddle to Aaron Jones, who exploded for 192 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. It's entirely possible that Williams, who was a late addition to the injury report on Thursday, was battling through a sore knee in this one. Perhaps that would explain why he was out-touched 22-seven by Jones. Still, Williams was in for 42 percent of the snaps, indicating that he'll maintain his role in the offense going forward. Williams and the Pack will take on the stingy Chicago Bears in Week 15.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross had two catches for 28 yards during the loss to the Browns on Sunday. Ross made his return to the lineup for the first time since Week 4 after missing some time with a chest injury. The upside is there, but his outlook for the remainder of the season is less than favorable, especially in Week 15, against a problematic Patriots Defense. Nonetheless, he still has value in deeper formats for those who are looking for the 24-year-old to duplicate the success that he had through the first two weeks of the year.
The New York Jets Defense allowed plenty of yards to the Dolphins Sunday, but never let Miami in the end zone. The Dolphins scored all 21 of their points via the field goal and the Jets defense added an interception and two sacks for a mediocre fantasy day. Anyone using the Jets defense as a streamer may want to stop now ahead of a matchup vs MVP candidate Lamar Jackson and the high-flying Ravens in Baltimore on a short week.
Buffalo Bills running back T.J. Yeldon was inactive for the seventh straight game in Week 14 against the Ravens. The Bills are rolling along with Devin Singletary and Frank Gore as their lone rushers. Singletary had a big game in Week 14, gaining 89 yards on the ground and another 29 yards through the air. Gore has been a decent No. 2 behind Singletary, despite struggling in Week 14. Yeldon has no business on fantasy radars at this point.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst had his best performance of the season after Mark Andrews exited the game with a knee injury. Hurst caught all three of his targets for a season-high 73 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown in Baltimore's Week 14 win over the Buffalo Bills. If Andrews is unable to play Thursday Night, quarterback Lamar Jackson will likely heavily target tight ends Hurst and Nick Boyle. The Ravens face a Jets Defense in Week 15 that has held opposing tight ends to two touchdowns in 2019.